Posted by Adam Jacobi
As we mentioned earlier, Wisconsin seemed to be the primary loser of the new Big Ten division alignment; they're in a different division than geographical rivals Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska, and nobody can look up at Ohio State in their division and think, "great!"
But the Big Ten did do Wisconsin a favor by awarding them a protected rivalry with Minnesota instead of Iowa or Nebraska. For one, Minnesota is a traditionally weaker opponent than the Hawkeyes or Huskers, which can only help Wisconsin's uphill climb for a division title. More importantly, though, Wisconsin-Minnesota is one the oldest rivalries in college football, taking just one year off (1906) since both programs started playing football in 1892.
The Badgers and Gophers have played for Paul Bunyan's Axe since 1948, and while it's cool that the two have shared a trophy for over 60 years, that only accounts for about half of the two schools' rivalry. And it just so happens that before the Axe was adopted, from 1930 to 1943, Wisconsin and Minnesota played for the Slab of Bacon. Yes, the University of Wisconsin assures you, a college football trophy called Slab of Bacon:
The Slab of Bacon trophy was the precursor to Paul Bunyan's Axe as the prize in the Wisconsin-Minnesota football series. Apparently, the trophy was presented to the winning school by a sorority from the losing institution. The trophy was discontinued in the 1940s and was discovered in a storage room at the UW Department of Athletics in 1994. It is currently housed in the football office at Wisconsin. 'We took home the bacon,' Coach Barry Alvarez said, 'and kept it.'
So, Badgers. So, Gophers. The Big Ten has seen fit to honor your deep and lasting tradition. Honor that tradition as well, and bring back the Slab of Bacon.